I visited Union Dining with Fakegf and her aunt (who was visiting) a month ago. So should we call her fake-aunt? Hahaha! Oh dear.. this joke is wearing thin… But Union Dining has been on our wishlist for awhile and I’m glad we finally made it!
It was a Friday night, cold and gloomy… as typical as Melbourne can be in Autumn. We were the first to arrive at 6pm, but the place filled up steadily as the night strode along.
Sourdough baguette, from Baker D. Chirico
Darkwood tables, bentwood chairs, terrace dining, open kitchen, high stools, warm lights, an inviting typeface and waitstaff who know the menu inside out. Everything just slips into place so nicely here.
I think Union Dining exemplifies the style of dining that Melbourne’s so good at. Good food and good food service in a casual relaxed environment without showiness. Effortlessly pleasant.
Just from looking at the fit-out and atmosphere, I nurtured an instinctive feeling that one probably can’t go wrong with this place.
Kingfish carpaccio, pickled beetroot, horseradish cream & green chilli 20.50
We started very nicely with a different take on kingfish carpaccio. Normally, this dish comes with lots of light tang and herbs. Here, the flavours went slightly heavier.
We had a wise interplay between a gentle horseradish cream with a spice rush, the fragrance of crisp fried shallots and the sweet juiciness of beetroots. All perfectly balanced. The dish gave a lovely oomph of sweet and fresh and tang. It was aunty’s favourite entrée.
Baked ricotta on bay leaves, sautéed mushrooms in hazelnut butter & Amontillado sherry 18.50
The baked ricotta, however, was fakegf’s favourite entrée. It was both rich but also gentle with sprigs of woody herbs in it, cradling an unctuously lovely bed of meaty mushrooms. There was something about the baked ricotta that tasted really really addictive!
Slow roast suckling pig, apple, onion soubise + Salad of confit fennel, savoy cabbage, mustard fruit, parmesan, saba dressing 40.00
This dish was the night’s special. It sounded very appealing and we were curious how Western-style suckling pig compares in taste to Chinese-style. I’m happy to report that it was wonderful. All of us loved it. Very good piece of pig, especially the crackling, OMG…
I wasn’t as fond of the accompanying salad though, mainly because I thought the presence of parmesan doesn’t go that nicely with the pig. But Fakegf liked it, she enjoyed its tartness.
Broccolini with garlic & chilli 9.50
This side of broccolini matched better with the suckling pig, just as well we ordered it! Scrumptiously cooked, and it was quite Chinese tasting with crispy garlic and red chillies.
Roast cauliflower & quinoa salad, figs & feta, saba dressing 26.00
While the cauliflower salad sounded pretty interesting on the menu, this dish fell a little short off our expectations. I liked the fresh figs, but found everything else unexciting otherwise and it was a touch too cuminy. Fakegf found it on the sweet side.
Here’s Fakegf… neatly portioning out and plating the food for the three of us. I don’t have the confidence and thoughtfulness to do that in a dining setting, but very much appreciate how I have friends who’d do this for me.
Before we knew it, everything was polished clean!
Chocolate tart, chocolate mousse & passionfruit curd 16.00
Lemon tart and crème Chantilly 15.00
Fakegf and her aunt had one thing in common: their love for desserts! We were not as fond of the chocolate tart as it was really sweet and could’ve been darker. But the girls really enjoyed the lemon tart. As much as I want to like it, I find that all lemon tarts taste metallic on my tongue, anyone else has that problem?
We really enjoyed this meal. Most of the dishes were very good, even though they don’t look that fetching in my photos. I’m glad we took our visiting aunt here too, cos I think when you leave this restaurant, you take along a bit of Melbourne inside you.
NB: I revisited twice more. The most recent time in late Spring, I somehow found the food here less appealing. Many of the dishes were on the heavy sweet side and featured a lot of sliced shallots, raw and cooked. Either the Spring menu doesn’t suit me or I’m no longer as fond of this style of cooking.